May on the farm (2023)

Cow Parsley  (Photo: Colin Wootton)

Richard Fonge writes:

May the month of the bluebells in the woods, and the May blossom of the whitethorn, much in evidence in our hedges and along the old railway line.

The oil seed rape is in full flower, and the barley off Park Lane has come into ear.

Spring barley has been planted up the concrete road, much later than ideal because of this late wet spring, but it has germinated quickly and will soon catch up with this warmer wet weather. Also to its advantage it was sown into a fine tilth of soil. Maize has been planted in the big field on the left of Magpie road.

The seasons have always varied, and invariably nature evens things out in our climate .

The spring season is all about new life, and that also means it’s bird nesting time. This means it’s so important to keep dogs under control as many birds nest low in the hedges and others on the ground such as plover, snipe and curlew. With such good footpaths in our parish there is no need to stray, and to clear up a misunderstanding there is no right to roam here.

One sound that I find quite evocative is the call of the rooks in their rookery. The nearest one to the village is in the small copse or spinney at the bottom of the Big Green.The field off Little street. Rooks nest high in the trees and need to be near grassland and stock as they feed off the dung and pasture. These small copses and woodlands across our parishes were planted in many cases , or left when the land was cleared for cultivation for sporting purposes and wildlife habitat.

So here is the connection. Without the woods, no rooks, who depend on the grassland to be grazed by cattle and sheep. Who are reared for meat.Take these pastures out (and this land is not the best for crop production) and you upset a delicate balance. This is a small example of the interconnection between the natural world and land use, a healthy balance in our area.

There are many ewes and lambs in the fields around the Parish, and note how those once small little lambs have now grown . Their mothers are injected six weeks or so before birth with a vaccine which gives their lambs immunity from the seven clostridia diseases through their milk. Hence it is vital that a lamb suckles within an hour or so after birth. At a couple of months of age the lambs need a small drench to prevent coccidiosis. This parasite can cause significant damage to the intestines and stunt growth.

This is the time of year when the grass verges grow tall with the cow parsley or Queens Anne Lace . So called as it reminded the Queen of lace pillows so it’s believed. The verges are full of a variety of fauna, insects and small vertebrates and are best not mown till the autumn, except for that narrow width mown for safety. Years back they were a source of grazing for the village small holders with their few cows. Where there was width the grass would be scythed and made into hay. When you had to “scratch for a living” nothing was wasted.

Many a successful farmer started out this way.

Finally. A Greatworth man called Ernie Isham (a very common name in these parts) was always known as Samson, because as a youngster he was helping out at threshing time when the machine got stuck. The cry went up “Give us a push boy,” and as he did the threshing machine moved.

Richard Fonge.




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